Why are local politicians and their business cronies pressing so hard this year to double the Measure A transportation tax and snatch a larger share of our family incomes with Measure B?
You’d never know it from reading the glossy campaign mailers, but Sacramento County taxpayers are already paying a gusher of transportation sales taxes under Measure A, which voters agreed to renew for 30 more years until 2039.
It brings in a whopping $110 million annually and has been increasing by 4 percent a year, growing with our economy and spending. It is projected to bring in an eye-popping $3 billion over the next 23 years to fund road repairs, road construction, and Regional Transit operations and expansions.
The big push to double the tax isn’t because additional transportation funding is badly needed. It’s because supporters’ polling shows that voters just might be persuaded to approve such a hike this year.
But their polling also shows that if voters hear the basic arguments against the tax, they will reject Measure B by a significant margin. Measure B would double the current tax. It has an unreasonably long 30-year life. And it would increase subsidies for the notoriously mismanaged and unreformed Regional Transit.
Their cynical strategy is to overwhelm voters with an avalanche of slick mailers and sophisticated PR, and hope that voters never hear the powerful arguments against Measure B.
We believe that local officials are even illegally spending your taxpayer money to fund misleading “informational mailers” that are indistinguishable from campaign mailers.
Documents show that local governments and the “Yes on Measure B” campaign are working hand in glove. Our research indicates that one half of the estimated $1.2 million spent so far to sell Measure B has come from taxpayers, with the rest provided mostly by corporations that hope to profit from contracts should Measure B pass.
We filed a complaint against this illegal use of taxpayer money with the Sacramento County grand jury last month, but the mailings keep coming.
Last month, Eye on Sacramento issued a detailed report on how local governments have been spending Measure A taxes. The report, prepared by a nationally recognized transit expert, catalogs how RT wastes money by paying overtime to bus drivers while they’re on vacation, wastes $10 million annually because it doesn’t use part-time drivers and wasted $43 million of Measure A money building a useless one-stop “train to nowhere.”
The report also reveals how over $250 million of Measure A dollars are being wasted paying interest on unnecessary borrowing, diverting dollars needed for road maintenance and construction. Finally, the report lays out an alternative transit strategy that would increase ridership and take people where they want to go, such as Sacramento State, which isn’t served by light rail.
Don’t double the tax. Vote “no” on Measure B.
Put CA Government On The Same Bread-and-Water Diet Taxpayers Are On
It appears every city, county and municipality in California has a tax increase measure on the November 8th ballot, and is spending taxpayer dollars promoting these tax increase ballot measures. Illegal government manipulation in elections has ramped up all across the state – and taxpayers are footing the cost.
“From Yreka, near the Oregon border, to El Centro, just north of Mexico, more than 80 local governments are asking voters next month to approve sales-tax increases, the most on record,” Bloomberg recently reported. “While some aim to boost spending on roads or other projects, most measures would just provide extra cash,” proving that 80 local governments don’t really need to boost transportation or school funds – they need the infusion of cash to pay the public pension beast.
If your government is advocating (illegally) for a tax increase, you probably should vote against it. There are 10 million Californians living below the poverty level, and far more who have seen little growth in wages for nearly two decades. Tax increases not only don’t solve these problems, they exacerbate them – especially when the taxpayers’ money doesn’t go where we think it does.
“Nearly half of Corrections spending goes in salary to 55,000 department employees,” According to David Crane. “Likewise, most state spending on Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid program) is pocketed by pharmaceutical companies, doctors, nurses and hospitals and 81% of school district spending, 61% of which is provided by the state, goes to or for the benefit of employees. The fact that government employees and healthcare providers will pocket 71%, or $85 billion, of General Fund spending this year helps explain why they are the state’s most aggressive political actors. With so much money on the line, they have a lot to lose and to gain from state propositions and who sits in the state legislature and governor’s office.” Crane was a special advisor to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a director of the California State Teachers Retirement System, California High Speed Rail Authority, and California Economic Development Commission.
Sacramento’s Measure B is the city politicians’ latest scheme to double the existing Measure A county transportation sales tax, increasing it from one-half percent to a full one percent. It would draw a projected $3.6 billion from the pockets of Sacramento residents and businesses over the next 30 years, making it the largest tax increase in the history of Sacramento County.
By doubling the local transportation sales tax for the next 30 years, local politicians plan to bail out Sacramento Regional Transit, despite a history of abominable management and gross, wasteful spending. Measure B is also the scheme to fund the public pension black hole owed to Regional Transit employees and retirees.
The Don’t Double the Tax, No on Measure B campaign committee recently filed a complaint with the Sacramento County Civil Grand Jury against the Sacramento Transportation Authority and the City of Sacramento for illegally using county and city taxpayer funds to operate their political campaign to try to pass Measure B. The City of Sacramento and the Sacramento Transportation Authority have spent more than $150,000 of county taxpayer money and an unknown amount of city taxpayer money to illegally campaign for passage of Measure B, according to the Grand Jury filing.
Did I already mention that it is illegal for government to choose a side in elections, much less using taxpayer money to undermine what should be a democratic process decided by the taxpayers?
San Luis Obispo
Recently, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the Central Coast Taxpayers Association filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission alleging campaign reporting violations of the Political Reform Act by the County of San Luis Obispo, the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments and the Yes on Measure J Committee, a group also pushing a local transportation tax. These government entities have spent nearly a quarter of a million taxpayer dollars on promotional materials and government employee and contractor compensation supporting Measure J.
The Town Council of Apple Valley, California, in San Bernardino County, has spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars putting a competing ballot initiative on the November ballot in opposition to a voter-approved measure grappling with accountability for bond debt.
Back in Sac
Sacramento City Unified School District Trustees used its own telephone message distribution system to promote tax increase measures for school programs and services.
The district contacted thousands of Sacramento parents using robo calls promoting a parcel tax as well as statewide Proposition 55. But these communications cannot be considered “information,” nor do they offer a balanced message. “They are always one-sided puff pieces designed solely to extract yes votes from uninformed voters,” Jon Coupal, President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association wrote in an op ed this week.
California voters have a chance to push back against these illegal activities and illegal government expenditures using taxpayer funds, by voting no on many of these tax increase measures. When will enough be enough for politicians – especially in a state which already has some of the highest income taxes, sales taxes, capital gains taxes, excise taxes, inheritance and estate taxes? California ranks the highest among states levying an individual income tax, while California’s school system ranked 9th worst in the nation, because the bulk of the taxpayer funds are not going to the classrooms.
Why would California taxpayers ever trust local and state government with more hard-earned tax money when it is being squandered — and used against us? It’s time to put local and state government on the same bread-and-water diet taxpayers are on.